2lbs.meaty tomatoesI used an heirloom Roma called Opalka. Romas work well due to being meaty with few seeds
3Tbspunsalted butterroom temperature
1tsp.pure vanilla extract
1sheet frozen puff pastryhalf of 17.3-oz package, thawed, corners cut to make very rough 9-10-inch round
3sprigs fresh thymeoptional, can use any herb
1 tspbalsamic vinegaroptional
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bring large saucepan of water to boil and get a large bowl of ice water ready. With a sharp knife cut a shallow X in the blossom end of each tomato. Gently drop the tomatoes into the boiling water until skins begin to peel back (30-60 seconds). Using slotted spoon, transfer blanched tomatoes to bowl of ice water to cool quickly.
Peel tomato skins off (see photo). Cut off end of tomato, slice tomatoes lengthwise into thick slices and remove the hard white core if there is one. Remove most of the seeds with your fingers.
If the butter is soft enough, spread it over the bottom of a 9” ovenproof skillet as evenly as possible using a pastry brush. If it doesn’t spread well, let it melt very slowly in the pan over very low heat. Do not let it burn. Sprinkle 3/4 cups sugar over the butter. Arrange the tomatoes in concentric circles in the skillet, cutting off pieces of tomato here and there to fill in any gaps. Tomatoes should cover the entire skillet.
Cook about 20-25 minutes over medium heat. The caramel will bubble up around the tomatoes and form a thick amber syrup, about 1/4 inch deep. Gently move the tomatoes around occasionally to prevent burning, and cook about 20-25 minutes. The first time I made this I loosened the tomatoes as they cooked and it came out beautifully. The second time I just let them cook in the caramel and they stuck to the bottom when I inverted it. It was a mess (a tasty mess however).
Remove skillet from heat and immediately drizzle vanilla over tomatoes. Top with the pastry round. You can tuck the edges of the pastry in with a knife or just let the pastry lay on top of the tomatoes with about 1/2 inch ring of caramel exposed around the pan. When I tucked it in, the pastry puffed up and made a rounded tarte bottom rather than flat. Both ways work. Cut 2 or 3 slits in the pastry also
Place the skillet in the oven and bake until pastry is deep golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.
Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Cut around sides of skillet to loosen pastry. Place large plate over skillet and, using oven mitts as aid, hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert upside down. Allow tart to settle onto platter. Hit bottom of skillet several times with end of knife to loosen the tart also. Carefully lift off skillet. Rearrange any tomato halves that may have become dislodged.